Affluent investors hungry for advice have their pick of financial planners or financial planners to advise them. I should know, I’m in the business and it’s a crowded field. However, I’m also able to see what a lot of my counterparts are doing and some of it concerns me. In my opinion there are a lot of issues that many financial planners avoid discussing.
While these topics are all in black and white in a financial planners’ disclosure documents, I’d like to highlight the three I think are the most important for investors to be aware of.
Not All Financial Planners Are Investment Experts
Most investors seek out a financial planner in Melbourne to get help building an investment portfolio geared to specific financial goals. Therefore, they assume when they speak to one that he or she is an investment expert.
In many cases they are exactly that. But not always. Consumers need to be aware that some advisors are primarily relationship managers. They manage the relationship with the investor, respond to client requests, and recommend and sell products.
A registered financial planner, on the other hand, is required to act in a fiduciary capacity and to put your interests first.
Recognise the Power Of Compounding Fees
Since the investor is paying a fee for advice from a Financial Planner they might assume that fee covers everything. Not so. You have a right to know all the sources of your advisor’s income as it relates to your accounts.
First of all, third-party incentives can color a financial planner’s advice – and could cost you more. For example, some insurance companies pay advisors commission based on the first year’s insurance premium for selling equity-linked insurance policies. In some companies managers are paid bonuses for moving certain products.
Second, some financial planners sell managed accounts, also known as controlled or discretionary accounts, which are professionally managed by someone or an institution which is also paid a fee. These active managers take 1% or more of your money. If they’re recommending alternative investments you could be paying even higher fees, if the managed account involves them.
Third, while many advisors are upfront about detailing precisely how they are paid, some rely on lengthy disclosure documents.
Go Beyond Portfolio Composition
There are a broad range of variables that affect your financial life including taxes, insurance, retirement income planning, estate planning, and more. These are all tied to your goals, core values, objectives and risk tolerance. Moreover, balancing all of these components is an ongoing process.
In other words, it’s not always about getting the best possible return. It’s about how you define wealth at each stage of your life. Real wealth management goes far beyond a colored pie chart illustrating a “diverse” portfolio. It’s about the hard conversations. Are you saving enough to meet your goals? Are you budgeting properly? Are you making too many assumptions?
In estate planning, for instance, are you sure that your assets are being securely passed down to your beneficiaries? Estate taxes must be paid in cash within nine months of death and before the distribution occurs. Many families don’t have that kind of cash on hand, which forces them to sell assets at less than market value. However, life insurance can help you offset some of these costs. As you can see, such a conversation is far, far away from portfolio construction.
Overall, this is a highly regulated industry with several agencies watching over it. And there are good – and great – advisors out there working every day in their clients’ best interests. However, it never hurts to be aware of some of the things that a financial planner might not tell you.